What’s the important information? ‘ISLAND’ is a Summer 2018 anime that aired for 12 episodes from July through September. It is based on a Visual Novel game developed by Front Wing.
What’s it about? A man washes up on a beach with no memories of his own other than his name, Setsuna, and the mission in his heart—that he has to save a girl. Quickly he encounters three very different girls, each with their own unique problems, Rinne, Karen and Sara. Romance, time-travel and shenanigans ensue as Setsuna attempts to help these girls, while figuring out his own identity and the mysteries of the exclusionary and superstitious Island they call home.
Why did you watch it? Aside from the obvious that the anime’s poster featured three distinctive and incredibly cute looking girls the series is based on a visual novel and for better or worse visual novel adaptations are a unique beast—more difficult to adapt and therefore more prone to artistic license but also less beholden to genre stereotypes than manga.
Did you enjoy the show? From the get-go the show intrigued, enthralled and entertained me and didn’t relent for a moment. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement as it was the series I looked forward to the most every week during the Summer 2018 season!
What were your most favourite things about the show? Aside from our female cast of characters; who are all pretty much perfection, the effortless blend of mystery and romance consistently made the show alluring.
Wbat were your least favourite things about the show? It might seem like a cop-out to say so but the fact that there weren’t more episodes was a detriment. Never to the point where I felt like I was missing out anything essential but rather that the experience could have been enriched further with a longer overall running time.
Who was your favourite character? As mentioned in my list of 10 Best Summer 2018 Waifu’s, Rinne was my best girl, though it was a close race as both Sara and Karen have more than enough superb qualities to be just as eligible. Ultimately though, it was aesthetically Rinne who won out over the others.
What’s something unique about this show? This is absolutely a spoiler so consider yourself warned for this question, but Episode 10’s end credits delivered to us a sex scene between future Rinne and Setsuna that was both unexpected but inevitably essential to the plot—the fact that they showed it at all (albeit subtly and with ample shadows) was the thing that stuck out as utterly unique—even among visual novel adaptations.
What other anime are most like it for the sake of comparison? While I’m sure there are undoubtedly anime that at least tonally resemble ‘ISLAND’ I personally haven’t seen an anime series like it. However, with regard to live-action US television series’ I feel it at least shares a passing resemblance to shows like ‘Lost’ and ‘Twin Peaks’ at least with regard to an adherence to mystery and ~feeling~ rather than things like concrete narrative cohesion and a reliance on over-explaining the more fanciful elements of the series.
Who would you recommend it to? For those who don’t need everything spelled out in explicit detail and can just kinda ‘go with the flow’ and appreciate a story being told the way it needs to be told, ‘ISLAND’ is ideal. Also for people who aren’t deterred by loli character designs and intermittent but no less obvious fan-service moments too.
Sum up the season in one sentence: ‘This Island holds many mysteries but none greater than those of the heart.’
His and Hers Story Repeats – An Anime QandA Review for ‘ISLAND’ Episode 12
What’s the show? ISLAND, Episode 12.
So here we are, we’ve reached the end, the season finale of ISLAND! This is true, it’s been a long and emotional journey but we’re finally here and there’s always that bittersweet feeling about a series finale—especially one for a show I’ve enjoyed this much.
Well no point beating ‘round the bush, what happens in this episode? Well as teased last week, it turns out that Rinne’s shut-in mother Kuon is actually future Rinne from the ‘NEVER ISLAND’ arc. Which, after reading a journal from current Rinne’s ‘father’ we learn that future Rinne washed up on the beach without memories—much like Setsuna and not only that she was pregnant with Setsuna’s child (after the sex they had at the end of Episode 10).
Wait, does that mean… Yep! Setsuna is current Rinne’s father! Good thing they never went further than kissing, eh?
Yikes! That’s a tough revelation, how does current Rinne handle that? Not well initially, and that’s completely understandable—I mean she’s fallen for the guy and now he’s telling her that he’s her father that’s an incestuous pill to swallow.
For sure, what else do we learn? Okay, so this bits a little bit more complicated and kind of explained in a single-scene despite its rather impactful ramifications but basically time-travel doesn’t exist, least not backwards time-travel. I guess in a way that helps rule out pesky things like paradoxes and there being two of a person in any one time. What’s actually happening is that time itself is looping infinitely, from the stone-age to the period of time presumably around the new ice age that envelops the Earth and the last remnants of humanity living on the Island as seen in the ‘NEVER ISLAND’ arc. And so when Setsuna or anyone else enters the stasis pods they simply are in stasis for another lap of human history and wake-up roughly when they intend to. So everything that happened in the previous episodes still happened and time wasn’t changed via time travel it’s just that history repeats itself just with the people who enter stasis having the knowledge of their previous go around of history.
That’s kinda confusing but kinda interesting? It’s way more interesting than the show gives it time to dwell on—but that’s kinda the point, much like how Darling in the FranXX was more about teenage angst and relationships than it was about robots, ISLAND is more about a fated couple throughout history trying to find the ‘right time’ to be together but missing out on a happy life for various reasons.
And do they? Have a happy life that is. So Setsuna finally confronts Kuon—having to smash down her door to get her to acknowledge him but she doesn’t want to turn around and face him. She knows her daughter is in love with him and doesn’t want to get in the way of her happiness. Thankfully current Rinne has had some time to think about her life and has the maturity and clarity of thought to be appreciative of the happiness both her mother and Setsuna have given to her, and wants to be able to return that happiness by letting Setsuna and Kuon be together. And so Kuon and Setsuna kiss, just like they did before and then they get married and it’s so sweet and pure and I was crying and I love this show and this episode was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be!
Oh you ol’ softy! I thought you didn’t go in for all this romantic ~stuff~? Yeah, normally I don’t but kudos to this show for finding a way to not only make a courtship across history interesting and dynamic and exciting and dramatic but also really sweet!
So overall thoughts? Well I won’t give my overall thoughts on the series itself—that much remains for my ‘QandA Rundown’, which will appear some time soon on the site. But as for how this fares as a final episode, I loved it—sure it’s not nearly as detailed and long as it could have been but it hit all the right emotional beats and delivered a satisfying conclusion for all involved while still leaving things open-ended enough to leave ~some~ details to your imagination.
A Fling Of The Past – An Anime QandA Review for ‘ISLAND’ Episode 11
What’s the show? ISLAND, Episode 11.
So what happens in this, the penultimate episode? Well we’re back to it being regular old ‘ISLAND’ instead of ‘NEVER ISLAND’ as it was the previous two episodes and man, I didn’t realise how much I missed the sun-drenched sandy beaches of Urashima. But you know what, as the familiar opening credits rolled nervousness—borderline anxiety brewed inside me.
Why’s that? Because I realised—and I don’t know why it’d taken me a week to get to this thought but I’m glad I did otherwise I’d have been obsessing over it all week—I realised that everything that had come previous to this episode was almost voided by the fact that ~actual~ time travel had just occurred, and it’s a scary thought as a viewer to know that all the character development that’d come before was almost completely negated.
I guess that’s true, does that sour the experience with you then? Ah! But see that’s where this show is smarter than I perhaps gave it credit for, or if not smarter than at least more savvy and sensitive. So my biggest, initial fear was that they’d undo all the good Setsuna did for Karen and Sara’s lives and he’d just beeline for helping Rinne out. Thankfully, he still prioritises helping them through their troubles again, he in fact arguably does a better job of it—at least in Karen’s case, Sara’s is borderline.
So it’s not like just a rehash of the first few episodes in a condensed format. Indeed, and that was my second fear, that they’d just reuse old footage and kind of montage through their story arcs, but aside from establishing shots I don’t think any of what we saw was old footage! Again, me probably giving this show less credit than it deserved for delivering the goods.
And so what actually happens then? Well Setsuna wakes up on the beach—like in the first episode—but with the clarity of memory from when he left the future and this imbues him with a confidence and sense of purpose and swagger and there’s no skirting around the ‘why’ of him being here—he lays it all out to everyone he meets, that he’s from the future and he’s here to help. He goes about predicting things before they happen and telling people what they’re thinking because he has all this information from his past life here. If you’ve ever seen the classic 1993 comedy ‘Groundhog Day’ then you’ll feel a familiarity with these scenes, and that’s absolutely a good thing!
So what’s different about how he helps Karen and Sara compared to the first time? In Episode 4 we had what would be considered the adaptation of Karen’s ‘route’ from the visual novel (presumably, I haven’t played it yet). And rather than Setsuna returning to the mainland with Karen and being there for her to learn about her mother’s death, he lets her three school friends fill his emotional support role, and it’s a seemingly minor but important difference. Because firstly it means Karen doesn’t get too emotionally attached to Setsuna, he’s more of a caring friend or big brother now than a love interest and two it gives a substantial narrative purpose for these school friends to have. Also, sharing sad news with people you’ve known for a long time can be much more cathartic than with a relative stranger.
What about Sara’s, you said hers was “borderline” what did you mean by that? Episode 5 was an emotional one for Sara as she learnt about the true nature of her family and of the prophecy that she would die before turning 18 that she was convinced would come to pass. I think we’re led to believe that Setsuna more or less talks her out of this thinking, his superior knowledge of the future winning her over—and her ending now is more to do with her being able to just “be herself” rather than be beholden too strictly to traditions. I think more time devoted to this part would have been nice, but as it stands its good enough.
And finally Rinne, how does he ‘save’ her from the hands of fate? It’s not too dissimilar to how it transpired in the previous pre-NEVER ISLAND episodes, just Setsuna handles things with a bit more sensitivity and the added knowledge of what ‘revelations’ await on the second island assist too. And she starts falling for him—unfortunately this Setsuna is already in love with the Rinne from the future who he had to leave behind and there’s kind of something tragic about that.
But where does that leave this story? Oh, you think things are going to be that simple? ISLAND has a twist up its sleeve and delivers it perfectly right at the end of the episode! Big ol’ spoilers, but then again if you’re reading this far and are worried about those I think you’ve come too far anyway. But turns out that Rinne’s reclusive mother Kuon is working on a time-machine of her own in her room—and the ring on her finger in an old photograph that Setsuna discovers suggests that Kuon is actually future Rinne who came back in time to give birth to current Rinne and *mind implodes*
Wow, okay. That sure is some time travel shenanigans! So thoughts overall? I was so impressed with how this second-to-last episode was handled, maybe my trepidations tempered my expectations but regardless of the reason I’m very happy with what we’ve got and can’t wait for the finale to come!
Rinne and Repeat – An Anime QandA Review for ‘ISLAND’ Episode 10
What’s the show? ISLAND, Episode 10.
So, last week was a bit of a game-changer for ISLAND, was it not? That’s an understatement. The fact is it almost became a completely different show, even bothering to title itself ‘NEVER ISLAND’—as it continues to do this week.
So what happens in this episode then? Oh you know, church conspiracies, mass-child murder, the death of two main characters and then an actual sex scene between our protagonists, you know just causal run-of-the-mill stuff like that.
…You’re gonna need to explain each one of those things individually because, uh… that’s a lot to take in! That’s what Rinne said! (probably)
*sigh* So I take it Rinne and Setsuna are the one’s who had sex? Yes! And it was unexpected and actually kind of sexy…even though it was very fleeting, but that happened during the end credits so we’ll get to that in a bit!
Look how excited he is! Like a kid at Christmas! I can’t help it!
Okay, so let’s deal with the less exciting things like, ahem, “mass child-murder” jeez, I’m getting tonal whiplash here! Hey, I had to watch the damn thing. So basically all the ‘untagged’ children (all the orphans Karen were looking after) a straight up murdered by the church that controls the ‘island’ then Sara’s father the cardinal is murdered mid-sermon and Sara is framed for the murder. Mob mentality kicks in and the people of the town tie Sara, Karen and Setsuna to a pyre and decide to burn them alive (after some instigating words from the evil archbishop).
Well jeez that escalated damn quickly! Thankfully Rinne (who’d stayed at home to work on her mysterious project) comes to save the day, scaring off the townsfolk with fireworks, pretending they are terrorist bombs and puts out the pyre with a nearby fire hydrant. The four of them then escape the main ‘island’ and head for the cave on the second island where Rinne and Setsuna originally found all the technology back in the past.
So things are okay now? Well no, Sara caught a bullet in the leg during an earlier confrontation with the church’s armed guards and while pretended it was just a graze was in-fact bleeding out the whole time and so she straight up dies! Then some days after getting to the cave Karen contracts ‘Soot-Blight Syndrome’ and while carrying her back to the main island to seek medical help she dies too!
Wow. I can’t say I expected that, how were these deaths handled? Sara’s death was sudden and kind of shocking so it didn’t really have the time to resonate, whereas Karen’s death was pretty devastating. Setsuna carries her the whole way there on his back, they share some sweet words to each other, her commenting how nice it is to be held against such a broad and comforting back, then they arrive at the clinic only for the doctor to look at Karen—still draped over his back—and say there’s nothing he can do because she’s already dead. Yep, I cried!
Another main character death so quickly, isn’t that a bit fast after the first? I suppose we might as well talk about the pacing of the episode now as that’ll undoubtedly be an issue for some. Yes a lot happens in the space of this 24 minute episode, enough to fill three episodes easily—this is a comment I’ve made on previous episodes too, after all this is what happens when you adapt a 50+ hour visual novel into a mere 12 episodes! However, why it works here is because giving more time to these events would make that time spent felt wasted as ultimately these character aren’t (presumably) going to be dead for much longer because of the inevitable time-travel shenanigans! If we’d spent multiple episodes getting to know these character variants then episodes watching them die and grieving for them, when all that was reversed it would feel kinda pointless, at least in the grand scheme of things. I’m talking big picture here.
Yeah I suppose I get what you’re saying. So what about Rinne and Setsuna, how do they come out of all this? Oh they ‘come’ all right!
Ugh, I guess I walked right into that one… so how do they end up together in the marital way? I know you meant that as a polite way to say have sex but funnily enough they do end up getting married which is kinda quaint and cute in it’s own way. Not in any official capacity obviously as they are wanted fugitives but Setsuna makes a pair of wedding rings while Rinne finishes building the time machine they’re about to use to send him back in time to fix this whole shitty timeline, and being that they love each other and they’re married Rinne and Setsuna have sex. Heavily shadowed sex that emphasises silhouettes and shapes and arching of the back—it’s probably the most tasteful anime sex-scene I’ve ever scene, also completely unexpected but in all the right ways. Though it was a bit short for my liking—kinda hoping that Setsuna and OG Rinne get it on in the past/present too but I’m not holding my breath…
So your overall thoughts on the episode? Maybe this read like a lot of nonsense, maybe this made you think this show is rushed, overwrought nonsense. Maybe you dropped the show and you’re now curious about it, or maybe you just don’t care. Ultimately, I do care a great deal for these characters and this show, yes, I wish it was longer (that’s hopefully not what Rinne said) but as it is, I adore how committed this show is to delivering an ‘experience’. For some it doesn’t work but for me it’s exactly what I want. Only two episodes left now and I’m no longer worried about how they’ll fit it all in, I’m just starting to prematurely grieve its end.
Edit: The AT-X (premium Japanese cable) version aired with a “less censored” version of the end credit sex-scene, basically just less shadows so you can see what’s happening a lot better.
Long Time No Sea – An Anime QandA Review for ‘ISLAND’ Episode 9
What’s the show? ISLAND, Episode 9.
So last week ended on a interesting kind of cliffhanger, didn’t it? Yes, Setsuna stepping into a time machine (more accurately a stasis-device) with the intent of travelling to the future to find the inventor of said machine and somehow rescuing Rinne in the process.
And so where does Setsuna end up? Well, the future obviously! Specifically a dystopian future where the Island is the only inhabited place left on earth—protected for (presumably) centuries by a dome from the frozen wasteland that rages outside. A religious based government has complete control over the citizens, rationing out food to only ‘approved’ citizens while those who aren’t approved (or “untagged” as the show calls it) have to fight for survival against a system that oppresses and murders any children that are born without “approval” or who are orphans.
…Okay, that’s certainly a stylistically dramatic difference to what’s come before— Absolutely. Gone are the bright summery beach scenes and laid back small town aesthetics, instead replaced with Soviet Russia-esque oppression and the bleak winter of a world frozen to the brink of extinction.
Hardly seems like it’s ‘Island’ anymore. And the show knows it! Not only does the opening and closing credits change to something suitably dark, but the show’s name is changed to ‘NEVER ISLAND’. Which… okay not the best choices of titles but it’s still a pretty impactful thing to see and truly makes the statement loud and clear that the game has changed!
And what about our characters? Well it seems spending so much time in stasis has sort of reset Setsuna’s mind to how it was in the very first episode—albeit with the added urgency of his oppressive new life. He still knows he has to save a girl and presumes that girl is Rinne, who in this time is something of a quirky inventor girl, which is a good look on her! Karen is the leader of the group of tag-less orphans who live far underground and she’s even more spunky and even more tsun then before. Plus she’s sexually active (I think the little girl Anne is her daughter?) she even goes about trying to seduce Setsuna in ridiculously skimpy lingerie—but more on that later!
Please, less on that later. Sure sure, also I’d say the ~biggest~ change, is Sara who’s chest has finally matched the size of her hair (that is to say, big) and she’s the daughter of the head of the religious organisation that controls the island.
That’s… certainly a lot to unpack. And I haven’t even got to the actual ~plot~ of the episode that’s just the setting and the characters, granted it helps knowing more or less who these characters are intrinsically but so much happens that it’s absolutely a disservice to try and explain it all.
Did you want to speed-run it? Sure. So basically church-government is bad, doing bad things to innocent people, Sara wants to help the homeless starving orphans because she’s a good person, Karen wants to bring down the church-government to help her people, Rinne wants to save the island and thus humanity in the process and Setsuna wants to help them all. A lot happens in this episode but it’s mostly set-up and I’m not sure how many episode we’re going to spend in the ‘Never Island’ version of this show, but it’ll at least be one-more since this episode ends without a resolution.
And what’s your opinion on this change? I think it’s great, I honestly love that the show’s taken this direction for the story and committed to it so whole-heartedly. It’s just the same problem I had last week and more or less every week the more I think about it—this show needs to be longer! I’m at least glad this current ‘arc’ is going to be more than one episode, but assuming this series is going to be 12/13 episodes (which hasn’t actually been confirmed but is a strong assumption) I am worried that the resolution will be unsatisfying. That aside though I love this episode—even if best girl Rinne’s outfit isn’t quite as cute as her previous one.
Got your priorities in order I see… Hey, at least I didn’t spend the review talking about Sara’s lingerie!
An Ocean Between Us – An Anime QandA Review for ‘ISLAND’ Episode 8
What’s the show? ISLAND, Episode 8.
So what happens in this episode? Phew… honestly, it’s kind of exhausting how much happens in this episode, not that that hasn’t been the case in a few previous episodes but what’s different here is the sheer amount of forward momentum the plot is given to the point where I’m wondering if ~maybe~… actually no, forget about it, I’m not going to tell this anime how to do it’s thing.
Well now you’re pretty much obligated to say what you were going to say since you’ve drawn so much attention to it… Okay, fine. So this anime is based on a Visual Novel, great, love it, Visual Novel Adaptations make for some of the most “interesting” anime’s for better or worse. But the Island visual novel (according to sources) is 30-50~ hours long! This anime is 12, 20 something minute episodes! See the problem? And just so you’re all aware, I’ve never played a visual novel so my experience with them is nil, likewise I don’t like comparing anything to the source material—especially a source material I haven’t played/read. But when the adaptation feels strained to contain all the plot elements and feels rushed to the point of bloat, you have to wonder if ~maybe~ a different adaptation approach should have been considered.
By which you mean? Rather simply, more episodes. I’m not saying things need to be 1:1 adaptations in order to be satisfying. A clever writer can work around a run-time limitation to deliver the goods; The Fruit of Grisaia and The Eden of Grisaia animes are more than proof of that (again haven’t played/read the visual novel of that so only going off how fulfilling the anime version is). But here, with Island, we’re given an absolute information overload, not to mention enough character development and rock solid ~feels~ to power 3 episodes at least.
Care to elaborate? Okay, I’m going to rush through it though, so spoiler warning for this paragraph. Rinne and Setsuna return to the deserted island where Rinne and original Setsuna spent a time stranded 5 years ago, Setsuna discovers an ancient technology in a cave along with original Setsuna’s dead and decayed body his diary reveals that he found a device of exceedingly futuristic design and he put Rinne in it to save her. Having gotten this closure Rinne and Setsuna frolic on the island for a couple of days while a cloying sweet duet plays over their cutesy love montage. They then endeavour to leave the deserted island only to be struck by a storm. Setsuna awakes to find that Rinne died at sea trying to get home and he cops the blame from Rinne’s mourning mother Kuon. Setsuna is obviously distraught, having lost the love of his life but Kuon has a plan and so with the help of Karen’s mother’s research assistant (the spunky redhead we met briefly in Episode 4—I can’t remember her name and I’m too lazy to check) they go to her laboratory on the mainland and voila—it’s the high-tech machine from original Setsuna’s flashback. Turns out the machine is a stasis pod that halts any aging for whoever is in the pod while time moves normally outside, allowing the occupant to move essentially travel through time! Setsuna gladly volunteers to enter it with the intention to find Rinne (somehow) and bring her back (again, somehow).
…Okay then. That’s quite a lot to digest! Exactly as I was saying, it’s all terribly interesting and emotional stuff, Setsuna’s grief is palpable—especially after the sweet time he and Rinne spent re-connecting on the deserted island. The way they tie the stasis machine (it’s basically like the cryogenic chambers from Futurama) into the mystical and historical elements of the Island’s folklore is genuinely interesting. But having all this squeezed into 20ish minutes (and the episode knows it’s too much as it forgoes both OP and ED to fit it all in) just ends up making a lot of it feel short-changed. Like I can’t help but imagine how much more devastating it would have been to have spent an entire episode on the deserted island only for the episode to end with the revelation of Rinne’s death. Then spend an episode on the aftermath of that with the wake and him coming to terms to his place in this world and more scenes with Kuon and Karen and Sara. And then have a third episode dedicated to returning to the mainland and learning about the machine and go into more depth about how exactly Setsuna intends to save Rinne from the future… or the past… or whatever he’s going to end up doing!
And you weren’t going to talk about how you would improve this show… as if you could resist! You joke, but I kinda hate doing this! It’s arrogant of me to think I know how to write a better adaptation of a source material I haven’t even read/played! But at the same time I kinda adore this show—especially its characters and the overall ~mood~ of the series so it pains me to see it fall into the kind of adaptive traps that come with condensing so much material into so little run-time.
But other than that, great episode? Haha… yeah, yeah. Pretty much, I often say I’m only ever overly critical of things that I love because I spend more time thinking about them and thus more time wanting them to be perfect… I’ll stop now because this review is getting long, but I’d love to hear what other people thought about this particular episode! Leave a comment below with your thoughts!